Arts Briefs: Theater in unusual places

A graphic with the state of minnesota and pieces of art
The MPR News arts and culture team's arts briefs offer a weekly guide to the ever-evolving art scene in Minnesota.
Sam Stroozas | MPR News

After producing 12 site-specific original works over the last five months, Mixed Blood Theatre is inviting people to come to a festival celebrating the Twin Cities.  

“12 x 12” is a community engagement project by the theater company. Between April and August, Mixed Blood collaborated with 12 artists in and around the Twin Cities to develop theater pieces based on different communities. Artists included chef Yia Vang and writer Hawona Sullivan Janzen.

“All of this is really an opportunity for Mixed Blood to reconnect with the Twin Cities region and make new relationships [and] meet new people,” according to artistic director Mark Valdez. “But to also hear from our community members, communities themselves [about] what matters to them right now, what are they thinking about? And what do they need.” 

The project will culminate with a festival this weekend, featuring modified versions of all 12 theatrical experiences, including synchronized swimming, a poem reading and a cooking demonstration. “12 x 12, The Festival” features an expansive view of what theater is, something Valdez hopes to continue in the future at Mixed Blood. 

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“I just find it more interesting. I find the art more interesting,” Valdez said. 

Valdez highlighted that the theater’s community-focused work will be continued next season with a project on the Iron Range.  

12 x 12, The Festival,” will run Saturday and Sunday at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis. The performances will be broken up into three acts, running at various points throughout the day.  

Streets in Cedar Riverside without traffic

Open Streets Minneapolis is a series of events intended to allow pedestrians to experience what a city might be like without automotive traffic.

Sunday’s edition will take place in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. Events include live music and street vendors selling goods and food. 

Community Development and Events Manager Ember Rasmussen explains that attendees will also be able to learn about the neighborhood with an exhibit called “Concrete River,” which details the neighborhood's history with Interstate 94.

“This is a really incredible history exhibit that was developed in partnership with the University of Minnesota and just talks about all the different forces that have shaped the neighborhood and the real resilience and creativity that has persisted in Cedar Riverside to this day,” Rasmussen explained.

Open Streets Minneapolis is free and events will begin at 11 a.m.

Mill City ghosts

The Mill City Museum hosts an unusual ghost story Friday and Saturday.

Actor/writer Andrew Wheeler’s one-man show, “WHOOSH! The Civil War Mythology of Michael Hickey & His Perilous Precipitation Over St. Anthony Falls,” tells the true story of Wheeler's own great-great-grandfather, a Civil War officer who appears in a painting by artist Douglas Volk at the Minnesota State Capitol.

“The play is about intersections with the past. Dakota and Anishinaabe, a language of the falls.” Wheeler explained he performs the tale of “Irish immigrants who served in the Civil War trying to find healing at home. And it's about art, and a lot of intersections of those things.”

Irish folk musicians The Lost Forty will provide live musical accompaniment.

A cyclist passes the Mill City Museum.
Mill City Museum.
Nikki Tundel | MPR News

Other Briefs:

  • The Minnesota Orchestra offers an inaugural concert Sept. 21 - 23, featuring music director Thomas Søndergård conducting two pieces by Richard Strauss: “Don Juan,” a tone poem about the notorious libertine, and the epic “Alpine Symphony,” which musically represents an 11-hour climb up and down a mountain. The program includes Mozart’s “Oboe Concerto,” featuring Principal Oboe Nathan Hughes debuting as a soloist.

  • On Sunday, the Minneapolis Institute of Art will offer a conversation with artist Maren Kloppmann discussing modern and contemporary ceramic sculpture in relation to pieces currently on display as part of the “The Root Collection: Celebrating Studio Ceramics” exhibit.

  • Tickets went on sale Friday for the touring production of Girl from the North Country,” a Tony Award-winning musical based on the songs of Hibbing singer/songwriter Bob Dylan. The musical will have an 8-show run at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis from Oct. 8-14. Incidentally, Dylan owned the Orpheum from 1979 to 1988.

  • Beginning Friday and playing through Aug. 24, The Main Theater in Minneapolis will screen Lakota Nation vs. United States,” a documentary about the Lakota people and their efforts to reclaim their homeland, the Black Hills of South Dakota, in the face of colonialism and ethnic cleansing.

  • At the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, Twin Cities musicians John Munson (of Semisonic) and Dylan Hicks (a former arts writer for City Pages as well as an accomplished songwriter) will perform as Munson-Hicks Party Supplies. Joining them Friday will be Aby Wolf, Faith Boblett and Kelley Smith.

A man standing with arms akimbo
Singer-songwriter Dylan Hicks.
Courtesy of Wilson Webb.

Absolute Bleeding Edge

The MPR News arts team offers suggestions for the best in avant-garde, experimental and off-the-beaten-path arts and culture.

Television: The rise of the television chaos engine

Television seems unusually messy right now, not just in the breakdown of negotiations between writers and producers, nor in the protracted collapse of the streaming service model, but also in the content showing up on our small screens. The last of these, thankfully, is by design.

Chaos has always played a role in television sitcoms, but largely as plot devices: the gang will make a mess and then flail about as they try to solve it. But this is a time when the chaos seems to have become disconnected from plot, and exists for its own sake. I call it television as chaos engine, and let me give three examples:

1. “I Think You Should Leave”: Creator/star Tim Robinson is a sort of human bridge between chaos and cringe comedy. Robinson’s sketch-comedy characters seem like they are headed this route, beginning with awkwardness and veering quickly toward explosiveness. But his comedy tilts almost instantly into roaring surrealism, never more so than in a bewildering sketch from his most recent season, released in May. 

In it, Robinson plays the inventor of a pet door. He has done this because, one night, something got into his house, presented in a choppy flashback scene in which the creature is either a Hieronymus Bosch-style monster or a pig with a Nixon mask on, which is somehow worse. 

2. “What We Do in the Shadows”: Up until the 2023 season, still playing, this FX series has been a conventional sitcom, as much as can be true of a show about a group of vampires living together in Staten Island. But this season has repeatedly abandoned traditional storytelling in favor of setting up an absurd circumstance and then letting the characters add more fuel to it.

A standout example is the episode “Local News,” in which the vampiric characters accidentally reveal their presence in a television news report and, panicked, make things worse before taking over the news station and attempting their own broadcast, surrounded by bodies.

3. “The Righteous Gemstones”: Danny McBride’s HBO comedy about a squabbling family of Evangelical ministers has always veered into anarchy, consistent with the writer/actor’s longtime screen persona – he’s always seemed like he is moments away from explosive emotions. But this season really committed to the bit, its wild plot (involving romantic betrayals and a Fundamentalist militia) was mostly in service to set pieces of increasing pandemonium.

Some, such as a poolside gospel performance (featuring Walton Goggins as the improbably named Uncle Baby Billy in a clamlike robe), invented a kind of country-fried psychedelia. Others, including a joyous final scene of wanton monster truck destruction, located in the chaos an unexpected grace.

— Max Sparber

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment‘s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.